Sunday, March 22, 2009

Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman Book Review

Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman
(Viking, Hardcover, April 2009)

Savannah is expecting her summer to be boring. Her two best friends are away and her mom wants her to help look after her younger brother. Then Savannah meets Jackson, a cute surfer boy who is staying with his cousins, and her whole summer changes. Suddenly, she is sneaking around, trying to see Jackson as much as possible. Then Jackson gets in trouble and is sent back home. Savannah feels as if she can't live without him. In fact, she's pretty sure that he is the only reason her asthma hasn't been as severe this summer and she's desperate for him to come back. Was it just a summer fling or is Jackson her one and only?

There were several things that I really enjoyed about this book. I enjoyed the fact that the author didn't shy away from the question of whether teenage love can last. It's a question that Savannah faces and I don't want to give away any plot details but I quite liked the outcome of Savannah's story. It wasn't overdone and Savannah really comes into her own by the end of the novel. Savannah's asthma also becomes a critical part of the story and I felt that Cheryl Renee Herbsman did a good job of using Savannah's coping as a metaphor for growing up.

Although I did think that the message of the book was important and well-written, it was Savannah's voice that ultimately made me give this novel only 2 stars. I'm from the South so I appreciated the work that went into creating her voice. She lives in a small Southern beach town and she talks like a hick. Not an easy thing to keep up for an entire novel. However, Savannah's voice was incongruous with her character. She is supposedly one of the smartest kids in her class, taking AP classes, dreaming of college, and reading voraciously. So, how can someone so gifted have such horrible grammar? Here's a quote from when Savannah is talking about applying for a semester-long college experience:
"I ain't getting my hopes up....But even if I was lucky enough for that to happen, we couldn't never afford it." (pp. 12-13)
Savannah narrates the entire novel so the poor grammar was hard for me to get over. Perhaps if she hadn't been portrayed as such a stellar student it wouldn't have bothered me. Even the age difference between Jackson (18) and Savannah (15) seemed like a minor flaw compared to Savannah's grammar.


  1. Oh wow. I've read so many great things about this book that it's interesting to hear a different perspective. Thanks for the honest review! I appreciated it.

  2. I agree with you almost entirely :(

  3. Haven't read a copy of this book....all I've heard are good things.

    But the grammar seems like it would piss me of..

  4. I had a little trouble with the grammar but I really loved the book. I'm glad to see that you wrote your actual opinion, though. Also, there is an award for you on my blog!

  5. I can see where the bad grammar would be annoying...but maybe they are more lenient with grammar in the main character's hometown? I mean, maybe everyone else's grammar is even worse than hers and that's what makes her the best in her class? It would be interesting to hear from the author why she chose to use the bad grammar.

  6. I agree, Lenore. It would be really interesting to hear the author's perspective on the grammar.


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